Dear President Herbst,
I understand you are probably receiving a lot these messages, so please do not feel obligated to respond to me directly. In all honesty, I will not be offended. I just wanted to send you a note in regards to the recent e-mail exchanges that have occurred between you, Professor Regenspan, and Matt Levitsky.
First, I will start by saying that was in attendance at the senior class brunch on Sunday. It was a lovely event, and I really enjoyed the newest component added to this brunch, being the opportunity members of the senior class were given to acknowledge and thank one professor or faculty member who has made a profound impact on them throughout their time at Colgate. Clearly, Professor Regenspan made a positive, and lasting impression on an individual at that brunch, and I am very happy she was acknowledged for doing so. This being said, I still believe that this event was not about “honoring” faculty, but about the graduating senior class, reflecting on our accomplishments and memories, and becoming the newest members of the Colgate alumni council.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed Matt’s speech, and can see where he was coming from, I can also see how some faculty members, and even students present at the event, were offended by Matt’s reflections and commentary. It is clear to me, however, that Matt never intended to get a rise out of anyone, and was looking to make a light-hearted speech, knowing that this is a very sad, and emotional transition period for a many of us. Matt’s speech was meant to demonstrate the power of making mistakes, and growing as a person. Furthermore, his response to Professor Regenspan’s initial e-mail was, I felt, articulated in a very respectful, thoughtful, and apologetic manner. I think Professor Regenspan’s word choice was one of the most offensive things I have ever seen come from a, highly educated adult, but I also understand she was writing out of anger and personal distaste for the “Event on Whitnall Field.” Her second e-mail, however, was entirely uncalled for, and provocative in the most negative sense of the word. Matt shared this e-mail with you, I’m sure, in hopes that you would help remedy the situation, and act as liaison between the administration and student body. You chose, in my personal opinion, to respond in a benign fashion, that I believe was the catalyst to this student uprising via social media. I know you have read these e-mails, but please let me remind you of some of the hateful things a Professor employed at this school said to a graduating senior, voted president of our class for 4 consecutive years in a row, unaffiliated with any Greek houses, and off to Tufts Medical School after graduation.
First, Professor Regenspan claims Matt attacks “working people.” I find this interesting considering he is off to become a doctor, dedicating the remainder of his life to saving the lives of others. If this does not constitute as a “working person,” then I do not know what does. Professor Regenspan proceeds to call Matt a “spoiled brat,” and then continues to group the entire Colgate faculty together claiming they are all “opposed to the rich white boys drinking club and its network.” I think this is a pretty profound statement to make in reference to a young gentleman with whom Professor Regenspan clearly does not know. She also seems to be under the impression that this event is about the faculty being “honored,” and while, as stated earlier, I think this was a very important new aspect of this brunch, it is also pretty realistic to say that the purpose of the event was not to honor the faculty, but to celebrate our growth, maturity, and accomplishments as a class, and the professors who have supported us along the way. She then makes an incomprehensible comment about “international students/and or students of color,” who she seems to believe would not be able to understand or relate to a joke about underage alcohol consumption as an immature freshman in college. Is this a positive or negative commentary being made about these students? I would argue that it is discriminatory in its own right, but again, this is my personal opinion. Professor Regenspan then ends her e-mail with a personal anecdote regarding her family’s sense of humor, and it being significantly more developed and “modern” than your average person.
As you know, Matt responded, but Professor Regenspan clearly did not get the response from him that she had hoped for, and proceeds to call him “stupid” 6 times, including the instance where she refers to Matt’s “fellow students” as having an “obligation to not be stupid anymore.” Considering this is a top 20 liberal arts college, I would argue that the student body at Colgate is perhaps one of the smartest and brightest in the country. Perhaps she meant to refer to us as “immature,” or “irresponsible.” The Professor continues with more self-reflection, and then claims that Matt was able to get into medical school by “telling tasteless stories” at his interview, and that “only a certain class of white boys can get away with this.” This is uncalled for, and also assuming that the leaders of the top medical schools in the country disregard years of hard work, dedication, and passion for a field that is so important for the well being of Americans. Dean Ross, acknowledged at the senior class brunch as the “smartest man in the room,” hand picked all of us. Considered by many the most loved and respected member of Colgate’s administration, is he too, responsible for perpetuating this alleged “class of rich white boys” who sit around and drink? Further, why are the “white boys” singled out. Do other races and genders not enjoy an alcoholic beverage every once in a while as well? My favorite line of this e-mail is when Professor Regenspan suggests Matt “join the whole human race,” and again, voices her own personal opinions on the importance of liberal politics, and ways in which she believes we must change the world. It is not Professor Regenspan’s place to tell a 22 year old boy of legal drinking age that he should make a commitment to stop getting drunk. I would just like to point out that the event in question was the “Senior Class Champagne Brunch.” Colgate University provided all guests at the event with a glass of alcohol upon arrival. I then found it interesting that Professor Regenspan chose to share that you too found Matt and Haley’s speeches “stupid and depressing.” She ends her e-mail with a threat to continue her thoughtless, choleric banter until Matt “hear[s] her.” I think we all heard her loud and clear, she just did not receive the response she was hoping for, and for that, I am sorry for her.
I think that what is happening on various forms of social media including ratemyprofesor.com, and barstoolsports.com, is utterly disgusting, and absolutely a form of “cyber bullying.” This issue needs to be addressed by the administration, and sooner rather than later. Individuals entirely unaffiliated with Colgate are now able to post ignorant comments about our institution, without any knowledge or understanding of the kind of school Colgate is, the standards we are expected to uphold as a community, and the types of students that matriculate here. What horrible publicity for such a fine institution.
As a student body, we are all deeply saddened and disgusted by the treatment of our peer, and feel personally attacked as well. We also feel this issue is making a mockery of our school. I will refrain from using words such as “stupid,” or “depressing,” because these words are not typically part of my vernacular; however, I believe that the e-mails sent from Professor Regenspan to Matt Levitsky were tasteless, accusatory, closed-minded, rash, and egregious.
Matt is not someone I consider myself incredibly close with, however he ironically happens to be one of the individuals I met on my first night at Colgate. We played the “name game” because we are both from Northern New Jersey, and realized we have a handful of mutual friends. He is someone I have been acquaintances with for the past 4 years, and this year, he actually contacted me personally asking to be involved in the student Cabaret that I have directed for the past 2 years. He claimed it was something he had always wanted to be apart of, but was always too busy with his pre-med classes that he could never find the time. I agreed to let Matt play the bass in my show, and he was honestly unbelievable to work with, so spirited, talented beyond belief, and learned the music faster than anyone involved with the performance. I say this because it is evident to me that Matt is incredibly hard working, well-intentioned, and very involved in many facets this university offers. He is wonderful, and I think Colgate should be proud to have such an exemplary person represent this institution.
Colgate students are not being portrayed in a negative light on this campus, and in the media, and I believe that the social media reaction is a result of the student body feeling as though our opinions do not matter to the administration. We claim to foster close student teacher relationships, yet it is becoming more and more evident to us that the majority of the administration despises us, and we have also grown frustrated with some evident breaches of privacy that have occurred over the course of the year.
I’m not sure that there is someone who can stand before you and say that they love Colgate more than I do. Coming to this school, and meeting the people that I have met over my 4 years here, has shaped the person I am today, and had the most positive impact on my life. I am obsessed with Colgate, I am not in a “rich white boys drinking club,” and I often feel sorry for students at other universities who will never know what it feels like to be apart of this special community. I hope you understand where I am coming from in this e-mail, knowing that I write from a place of respect, but also frustration. I urge you address the staff and student body. I think apologies need to be issued across the board. I will start off the process by apologizing, on behalf of the Colgate student body, for the hateful remarks made about Professor Regenspan (although I did not make them); however, I hope she is strongly encouraged to issue a formal apology to us in return. We are all entitled to our own opinions in this country, and that is the beauty of America, but we are also protected by our own natural liberty, and do not deserve to have our character’s attacked.
I thank you for taking to time to read this lengthy e-mail. I hope you understand that I sought to think before speaking (a lesson we all need to take from this event), and I hope to see some action taken shortly to bring our community together again. I would prefer not to leave on such a negative note, and I’m sure the remaining members of the class of 2013 share a similar sentiment. Thank you.